HUNTINGTON CENTER
Edinger Avenue and Beach Boulevard
Huntington Beach, California

Orange County, California's first fully-enclosed shopping center was constructed on a 58 acre plot, located 33 miles southeast of center city Los Angeles. Originally known as HUNTINGTON CENTER, the complex was adjacent to the prospective route of the San Diego Freeway / Interstate 405 (which opened to traffic in 1968).

Consisting of a single level of retail, HUNTINGTON CENTER was designed by Los Angeles-based Mazzetti, Leach, Cleveland & Associates and developed by a joint venture of the Huntington Beach Company and Santa Barbara-based Gordon L. McDonald.  

The first operational store, a 2-level (156,000 square foot) Los Angeles-based The Broadway, was dedicated November 15, 1965. A 2-level (169,000 square foot) Montgomery Ward held its grand opening October 26, 1966.

An official mall-wide grand opening took place November 17, 1966, with music provided by the Huntington Beach High School Oiler Band. The center's third anchor, a 2-level (206,000 square foot) J.C. Penney, was dedicated at this time. This store faced a main court area with a statue of an archer, imported from Budapest, Hungary, at its center.

HUNTINGTON CENTER spanned 842,900 leasable square feet. Charter tenants included Gudes-Barnett Shoes, Mode O' Day Frock Shop, Bond Clothes, Winstead Cameras, Gladys Fowler ladies' wear and Harris & Frank apparel. A Food Fair supermarket was housed in a 108,800 square foot Convenience Center, on the eastern periphery of the mall.

Construction commenced on a 9 million dollar expansion in March 1986. Designed by the Millard Archuleta firm of Los Angeles, the addition included a 2-level (82,000 square foot), Hayward, California-based Mervyn's, a beach motif Food Court and stores and services such as Intrigue Jewelers, Cinnamon Roll Fair, Deck The Walls, Lerner Woman and Spencer Gifts.

The 2-level Northwest Wing was covered by a Teflon tent roof and was officially dedicated November 22, 1986. The GLA of the shopping center, now officially known as HUNTINGTON BEACH MALL, had been increased to 950,000 leasable square feet.

Unfortunately, by the mid-1990s, the shopping hub was going under. J.C. Penney moved out in November 1993, with Burlington Coat Factory assuming its store space in 1995. The Broadway folded in August 1996.

The mall ended up virtually vacant, as tenants and customers had moved to newer and more trendy retail venues, such as SOUTH COAST PLAZA (1967) {6.3 miles southeast, in Costa Mesa} and WESTMINSTER MALL (1974) {1.3 miles northwest, in Westminster}.

Santa Monica's Macerich Company bought HUNTINGTON BEACH MALL in December 1996 and announced a major renovation. According to the plan, the vacant The Broadway would be razed and replaced by a 20-screen Edwards Cinema. This project never got off the ground. In the meantime, the mall continued to deteriorate.

In November 1999, Irvine-based Ezralow Retail Properties acquired the struggling shopping center. An extensive renovation plan was drawn up. The bulk of the shopping hub would be knocked down, leaving Mervyn's, Montgomery Ward and the Convenience Center standing.

CROSSINGS AT HUNTINGTON, an "Italian Village" of upscale shoppes, dining options and entertainment venues, would be built. Burlington Coat Factory, deemed too middle market for the upscale shopping-center-to-be, was not to be included in the redevelopment.

A series of lawsuits ensued, with Burlington eventually prevailing. Any new shopping complex at the HUNTINGTON BEACH MALL site would include Burlington Coat Factory. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for Montgomery Ward. The store folded, along with the entire Chicago-based chain, in March 2001.

By 2003, a joint venture had been formed, which consisted of Ezralow, the Huntington Beach Redevelopment Agency and Los Angeles-based J.H. Snyder Company. A wrecking ball renovation got underway at HUNTINGTON BEACH MALL in late 2003.

Most of the complex was razed, with the four anchor department stores, and Convenience Center, left standing. Ground was broken in April 2004 for a new -170 million dollar- shopping complex, which would be entirely open-air in format.

In October 2005, San Jose-based DJM Capital Partners acquired the property, which was still in the throes of heavy construction. Christened BELLA TERRA (Italiano for "Beautiful Earth"), the new facility was to include the existing Mervyn's and Burlington Coat Factory stores. The old The Broadway had been renovated and retenanted by Kohl's, who had opened for business March 7, 2003.

Other holdovers from the enclosed mall were a (39,100 square foot) Barnes & Noble and (31,500 square foot) Circuit City; these stores located in the Convenience Center.  Smaller outparcel structures were Bank of America and Romano's Macaroni Grill.

Some of the newly-built BELLA TERRA stores were a (40,500 square foot) Bed, Bath & Beyond, (22,600 square foot) REI and (18,300 square foot) Cost Plus World Market. These welcomed their first shoppers in the spring of 2005. The Century Theatres Huntington Beach 20 megaplex showed its first features on November 18 of the same year.

The fully-realized BELLA TERRA encompassed 777,000 leasable square feet and contained seventy stores and services. An official grand opening was held September 8, 2006. The revitalized Surf City center soon encountered two hurdles. Mervyn's and Circuit City were shuttered in November 2008.

Whole Foods Market remodeled the shuttered Circuit City, with the new gourmet grocer beginning business October 13, 2010. The vacant Mervyn's was torn down in mid-2011. Costco constructed a 1-level (154,000 square foot) store, which held its grand opening May 2, 2012.

Montgomery Ward, which had been sitting vacant for over 9 years, was finally demolished in December 2010. THE VILLAGE AT BELLA TERRA, a residential and retail complex, was built on the old Ward's store site. Dedicated in April 2013, the facility would eventually encompass four hundred and sixty-eight apartments, 30,000 square feet of retail and a 5-level parking structure.

Sources:

The Los Angeles Times
LottaLiving website / Favorite Building Forum / Contributors: "Egads", "Spud Girl", and "Boxoutbm"
Belle Of The Malls: Huntington Beach Mall Reborn As Tuscan-inspired Lifestyle Center"/ Melissa Adams / OC Metro Magazine / "Retail" / February 16, 2006
Long Beach Press-Telegram
The Huntington Beach Independent / "Huntington Center's Opening" / Jerry Person
http://www.ci.huntington-beach.ca.us
City-Data.com / Los Angeles City Forum / Contributors: "Tess", "Dennismpat" and "Gary F." City-djmcapital.com (DJM Capital Partners website)
"The Broadway" article on Wikipedia
"Mervyn's" article on Wikipedia
www.groceteria.com / Message Board / History: Non-Grocery Retail / Contributor: "Jeff"